Autumn’s Gift: Tasty, Healthy Apple Treats

By Dawn Williams, Senior News Associate Publisher

Beyond the gorgeous color show yet to come, residents of the SN50 readership area have another fall favorite to enjoy. Thirty-six states in the US contribute to our annual apple crops, and Illinois is in the top 10 produces. Close to 40 orchards exist in the state, and many of them are in our own backyard.

Visiting an orchard, either to pick your own or to purchase harvested fruit, can be an uplifting, pleasant way to spend time outdoors and enjoy an intergenerational outing with family and friends. Many orchards offer other produce, confections and novelties, along with autumn activities and décor, petting zoos for the children, restaurants, and entertainment. Visit the University of Illinois Extension Service website for a listing of local orchards, and be sure to call ahead to ensure the listing is current and learn about offerings, hours, and costs.


How To Store Apples

You can greatly extend the lifespan of freshly picked apples by storing them at the ideal temperature of 30-35 degrees. In norther Illinois’s climate, that limits our options in October, when average temperatures range from lows in the 40s to highs in the mid-60s, but if you have access to an extra refrigerator or a cold cellar, you can purchase larger quantities.

When storing apples in the refrigerator, keep them separate from other produce; the small amount of ethylene gas apples emit will cause other fruits and vegetables to decompose rather quickly. A good solution, according to the poplar website, is to place them in a crisper drawer with damp paper towels over them.

Other ways to preserve apples for future use include dehydrating, freezing, and canning. A quick entry in your favorite search engine will provide you with instructions on each of these techniques.

Health Benefits

The old “apple a day” adage has endured for good reason. Apples are truly one of the power foods. Here’s why:

Apples protect your heart. They are a very good source of quercetin, a phytochemical that seems to benefit the lining of the blood vessels, thus decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Quercetin also protects brain cells from free radical damage linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, apples have a cholesterol-lowering capacity almost as effective as statins. Also, a single apple adds 5 grams of soluble fiber to your daily quota of 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. Soluble fiber lowers the risk for numerous intestinal disorders, hemorrhoids, and some types of cancer. It also helps keep blood sugar levels more stable.

Need more convincing? Studies suggest that eating several apples per week can prevent and heal asthma, type 2 diabetes and inflammation. Phloridzin, a flavanoid in apples, may help prevent osteoporosis and increase bone density. And apples are loaded with phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, phenolic acids, flavonoids and antioxidants, that reduce the risk of cancer.


Healthy, Tasty Treats

You can enjoy this bit of nutritional gold in its natural form, or try one of the tasty, healthy recipes our staff discovered. Links to the full recipes appear below.

Baked Apple Cinnamon Chips. Super-thin slices of your favorite variety of apple are sprinkled with cinnamon and a scant bit of sugar, then baked for a tasty, fat-free treat.

Apple Pie Chia Seed Jam and Breakfast Parfait. Nutritionally beneficial chia seeds thicken this easy-prep jam, which is layered with no-cook oatmeal for a sweet yet healthy start to the morning.

Overnight Apple Butter. With less sugar than commercial jams, this apple butter is prepared in a slow cooker and keeps up to a week. It’s ideal as a substitute jelly or jam, as well as a tasty dressing for pork chops.

Apple Pie Oatmeal Cookies. With far less sugar than the average apple pie recipe, these cookies are prepared with healthier whole wheat flour and oatmeal, and can be easily adapted to gluten-free diets.

Mini Caramel Apples. If you love this autumn favorite but not the sugar and fat in the traditional variety, this is the treat for you. It offers all the flavor and even more nutrients, at only 50 calories per piece.

Caramel Applie Protein Smoothie. As a post-workout protein infusion, or an anytime healthy treat, this smoothie recipe can be further enhanced with your favorite smoothie ingredients (think kale – you won’t taste it!). You can also eliminate the protein powder if you do not need the extra grams.

Whether you try one of these healthier takes on old favorites, stick with traditional recipes, or simply grab an apple on the go, make the most of the season’s harvest. Your health as well as your taste buds will thank you.